Your name is your brand
And it’s often creatives who want to construct new identities, often for strategic reasons concerning the commercial aspects of their work.
The classic example is George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Anne Evans. She took a male name to avoid the gender discrimination women writers of her time faced, and to get published.
I’ve always been very loyal to my name. Not that it has a poignant history.
If anything, my name is a non-history. My dad, a Dutch immigrant, changed his name from ‘Hubertus Cornelius Kuyt’ to ‘David Stekelenburg’, figuring his new name better suited the Australian tongue.
Regardless of where it came from, my name symbolises my identity and personal history. I kept it when I got married and have resisted the idea of changing it to something my readers can more easily spell.
Someone asked me to write a series of books that I didn’t want associated with my work. Not that they were dangerous or banal. But they’re in a different field to mine and I was concerned that would confuse readers. So I tried a few pen names for size.
Like being blonde for a day, changing my name changed my identity. As ‘Lulu’, I felt playful and provocative, as ‘Elettra’, artistic and as ‘Sophia’, sophisticated and suave.
Often artists change their name to represent fresh identities, revised ways of seeing the world, or simply because the old name had no pizzazz.
Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, signifying his conversion to Islam. The sound of the new name invested Ali’s identity with a sense of power. Whether or not he would have become a boxing champion and symbol of political counterculture without the name change is not to be said. What can be said is Ali’s name is his brand and legacy.
“ Names are an important factor in the suite of information about how we see ourselves and the way others see us, including how audiences see us. ”
Make up your mind about if the change makes a difference to how you see them:
David Tennant – David MacDonald
Lana Del Rey – Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
Portia De Rossi – Amanda Lee Rogers
Vin Deisel – Mark Sinclair Vincent
George Michael – Georgios Panayiotou
Jamie Foxx – Eric Bishop
Bruce Willis – Walter Willis
Winona Ryder – Winona Horowitz
Ashley Judd – Ashley Ciminella
George Eliot – Mary Ann Evans
Tennessee Williams – Thomas Lanier Williams III
Joseph Conrad – Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski
If you changed your name, what would it be and why?